William C. (“Bill”) Hammond was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Manchester-by-the-Sea on Boston's North Shore. Since graduating with a B.A. degree in English and history from the University of North Carolina, he has held various positions in the book publishing industry including sales representative, sales manager, publisher, and editor. He also has a master’s degree in business administration. In subsequent years Bill served as a publishing consultant, ghostwriter, literary agent, and writing coach, in addition to his work on the Cutler Family Chronicles. He now lives in New Zealand with his New Zealand-born wife, Sheree. Bill talks to NZ Booklovers.
Could you tell us a little about To Distant Shores?
To Distant Shores is the seventh volume in the Cutler Family Chronicles. The action is set in New Zealand in the mid-1840s. The U.S. naval steam frigate Suwannee, commanded by Captain Richard Cutler, is ordered to New South Wales. Richard’s wife Anne is on board. Off the southern coast of Australia Suwannee is blown off course by a cyclone and wrecks off the western coast of New Zealand. Richard and Anne are separated, each thinking the other has drowned. Both survive, however, and interact with the Maori–and Anne with a Wesleyan missionary who saves her life. Richard and what is left of his crew make their way north and east toward the Bay of Islands, Anne, in the company of a Royal Navy officer, eventually makes her way east toward Auckland. Against all odds, they survive life in the bush, Maori friends and foes, unexpected loyalties, love interests, and dangers of all descriptions to finally be reunited in Auckland.
What inspired you to write this novel?
Volumes 1 through 6 of the Chronicles are set in North America and Europe. When I moved to New Zealand in 2016, I wanted to bring the Chronicles with me and thus introduce my readers back in the States to the rich culture and history of this beautiful country. My wife Sheree, a Kiwi of British descent, was also a great inspiration. Her knowledge and love of all things New Zealand run deep.
What research was involved?
A lot. History books, interviews with museum directors and with Māori acquaintances, walking the land my characters walked on, attending lectures on local fauna and flora, even studying charts of the Bay of Islands. Research on a book like this goes on until the manuscript is sent to the publisher, and even then it continues. All told, I have invested almost three years in the book.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
The same process as when I was writing the earlier novels in the series, although I no longer get up at 4:00am to get to work. Generally, I write every day, no exceptions, for about three hours in the morning, and devote what time I have available during the rest of the day to editing and ongoing research.
If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
It would be something along the lines of Gladiator. Those haunting tunes often came to mind while I was writing.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
A great question! Here’s the cast:
Richard Cutler…….Dan Stevens
Anne Cutler………..Catriona Balfe
Chief Nene…………Cliff Curtis
John Shilling………..Bradley Cooper
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
The research and the many opportunities to interact with interesting people. Above all, I enjoyed learning about the history of a country I have adopted as my own.
What did you do to celebrate finishing To Distant Shores?
I poured myself a double martini, clinked glasses with my wife Sheree and thanked her for her wonderful support and contributions, then informed my agent in New York that the manuscript would soon be on its way!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I have read a number of good books so far this year, my favorite being Exodus by Leon Uris. I have seen the movie but until now I had not read the book. I am grateful I now have. It is a novel for the ages written by one of the greatest storytellers and historians of our time.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
Volume 8, entitled A Return to Duty, is a sequel to volume 7 and is set in the Far East at the time of the Opium Wars. Volume 9, tentatively entitled A Family at War, will take the Cutler family to the Civil War in America. And thus the series will end.